The Columbus Symphony Orchestra unveiled a plan this week to build a music and performance hall on the Scioto River in Downtown. Here’s what we know so far about the proposal:
Where would it be?
The hall would be built on an empty triangle of land on the west side of the Scioto River immediately south of COSI, bordered by West Town Street, South Belle Street and Washington Boulevard. The 6.7-acre site — roughly half of which is buildable — is owned by the city of Columbus.
How much would it cost and who would pay for it?
The symphony estimates the cost at $275 million. The cost would be covered by private donations, and state and federal funding. The symphony said it has received commitments for about $37 million including $10 million in state funds.
What niche would it fill?
The music hall would seat about 1,600 guests, which symphony officials say fills a need. The symphony’s current home, the Ohio Theatre, seats 2,791. Capacities at other theaters show a gap the proposed new hall would fill: the Palace Theatre seats 2,696; Mershon Auditorium seats nearly 2,500; the Southern Theatre seats 919; the Davidson Theatre seats 803; and the Lincoln Theatre seats 582. The proposed music hall would also include nine other performance and event spaces, for a total of 205,000 square feet.
What does it mean to riverfront development?
The hall would occupy the last major empty spot on Downtown’s riverfront, which has been redeveloped including the opening of the Scioto Mile park in 2011. The hall would anchor the southern end of redevelopment on the west side of the river. Other developments there include the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, which opened in 2018; the 26-acre Peninsula development, which includes apartments, offices, hotels and entertainment space, now in its second phase; and the mixed-use Gravity development on West Broad Street, also in its second phase.
How much will it cost taxpayers?
The Columbus Downtown Development Corp., which is working with the symphony on behalf of the city, says no city money will be spent on the music hall beyond the donation of the land, which the Franklin County Auditor values at $1.2 million. State tax dollars, however, have been committed to the project, and future funding may include additional public funds. The agreement between the city and symphony states that the symphony is responsible for all operating costs including taxes.
When might it happen?
The symphony is under a timeline that started last summer, when it signed a memorandum of understanding with the city. The agreement gave the symphony six months to come up with a plan for the building and another year and a half to secure funding. Under terms of the agreement, the status of the fundraising must be re-evaluated every six months. The deal requires the symphony to break ground by September 2025 and complete construction within three years.
How long has this been planned?
While the symphony signed the deal with the city last June, it has been pursuing a new home since at least 2021, when it considered building a new music hall on South High Street that would have incorporated the former Ohio National Bank Building. Even though the symphony sought $2 million in state funding for the plan, the symphony abandoned it.
What does it mean to other venues?
If the symphony moves into a new music hall, the Ohio Theatre would lose one of its anchor tenants. The Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, which manages the theater, has not commented on what the symphony’s departure would mean for the historic Downtown theater, or whether other tenants, such as Broadway Across America, might also be tempted to leave for a new hall.